Pakistan lays 'moral compass' Asma Jahangir to rest

Asma Jahangir in 2004

Asma, who passed away in Lahore on Sunday after suffering a cardiac arrest, played an effective role in forming the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Women's Action Forum, two notable organisations defending human rights in Pakistan.

'She nearly single handedly transformed human rights from being demonised as a marginal, "Western" agenda to a central part of Pakistan's national conversation, staring down militants, religious fundamentalists, dictators, and corrupt politicians'.

Dr Chunakara said that while Jahangir served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, he had several opportunities to work with her on behalf of the CCA and WCC in the 1990s and 2000s. Also, in 1995, Asma Jahangir became the second-ever victor of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the first of many global accolades that would come her way.

Repeatedly detained, assaulted and threatened with death, she never stopped combatting Pakistan's dictators, military and intelligence agencies with courage and determination, including as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan from 2010 to 2012, it added.

RSF said it shared grief of this leading Pakistani activist's family and offered its condolences to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

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The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work. As a champion of human rights, she also spoke out for women and minority religions. Following this she was called to the Lahore High Court in 1980, and the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1982. Marvi Sirmed, a senior Pakistani journalist who knew her personally, writes in The Daily Times how as a teenager she was inspired by "Asma ji's perseverance, her clarity of objective, her strength of character...her itch to question the powers of the time, and her passion to fearlessly fight for the oppressed and whatever she considered right, come what may". She was to visit jail again under General Pervez Musharraf during the Lawyers Movement of 2007, not that the lawyers of Lahore, a lot of them from small cities and of conservative mind, loved her for her defence of the non-Muslims and women. The woman described as a "fearless voice for the oppressed" died at home of a heart attack, her family said.

"I and many others didn't agree with some of her views".

"Asma Jahangir was the bravest human being I ever knew".

Later, a large number of political and civil society activists gathered outside the Karachi Press Club to light candles in Asma's memory and paid tributes to her struggle for the downtrodden segments of society.

Four years later, in 1999, a gunman burst into Asma Jahangir and her sister's offices in Lahore and shot dead Samia Imran, a victim of domestic abuse, who had come there to seek help in divorcing her husband.

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